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CMO report

Chief Medical Officer warns climate change poses a ‘serious health risk’ to the most vulnerable in Wales in annual report

Y Prif Swyddog Meddygol yn rhybuddio bod newid hinsawdd yn peri ‘risg ddifrifol i iechyd’ y bobl fwyaf agored i niwed yng Nghymru

Climate change poses a ‘serious health risk’ to the most vulnerable in Wales, Chief Medical Officer Frank Atherton has warned in his annual report.

The report looks at the second year of the pandemic, as well as looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

The report is made up of four chapters focusing on:

  • how climate change will become a pressing public health issue increasingly dominating our lives;
  • Wales’s population continuing to grow and becoming a predominantly ageing population with a decreasing working-age population;
  • the impact of the pandemic on the most deprived areas of Wales, mortality rates and life expectancy;
  • how the health and social care system responded to the pandemic, both the strain it was under, and also the lessons learnt and new ways of working.

In the environmental public health chapter, the report warns an increase in unusual weather events, such as extreme heat, cold and flood events, is likely to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable living in deprived areas and exacerbate already prevalent public health inequalities.

CMO Frank Atherton said:The public health argument for taking action to address climate change now is strong.

“Climate change will increasingly dominate our lives in the foreseeable future and the benefit of effective interventions would far outweigh their cost

“We know the pandemic has disproportionately affected the most deprived areas in Wales and had the greatest impact on our ageing population.

“We must do everything in our powers to ensure climate change doesn’t have similarly devastating consequences.”

The CMO’s annual report warns it is only through mitigating and adapting that we can respond to the impacts of climate change.

Mitigation includes reducing the sources of harmful greenhouse gases, whilst adaptation is about individuals, organisations and communities understanding and making changes to respond to the likely impacts of climate change

Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “Climate change is the biggest emergency we face. Our Chief Medical Officer is now raising the alarm on how it will directly impact public health in his report published today.

“Our ambitious plans to achieve a Net Zero Wales and decarbonise the NHS have put us on a path to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and protect our most vulnerable communities from bearing its brunt.

“But this requires action from us all. Only by working together in a Team Wales effort can we achieve a healthy, happy and green Wales for our future generations to enjoy.”

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “The effects of climate change on the environment around the world are clear to see and they pose a significant threat to public health.

“Climate change can impact access to the most basic health requirements, including clean air, safe water and sufficient food.

“We must take action now to prevent climate change having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable.”

Teaching children and young people about the positive action they can take to tackle climate change will be instrumental for future generations.

Eco-Schools is a unique programme that places pupil driven environmental change at its heart. It gives pupils of all ages a platform to come together to identify environmental improvements, formulate a plan and see the impact of them.

Lesley Jones, Chief executive of Keep Wales Tidy, which runs Eco-Schools,, said: “Eco-Schools is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world with pupil driven environmental change at its heart. It inspires young people in schools, irrespective of their background, to take action against climate change.

“Currently there are over 800 schools in Wales with the prestigious Eco-Schools green flag accreditation, and hundreds more working towards it, showing there is that real appetite amongst schools to be part of the movement to tackle climate change.

“At Eco-Schools we know that now, more than ever, we need young people to feel empowered to make a difference, as it is their future at stake.”


Notes to editors

The CMO annual report is available here:

The NHS Wales Decarbonisation Strategic Delivery Plan includes; Low Carbon Heating will be used in all new builds with renewable energy generated on site by 2030; reducing emissions will be part of new procurement contracts for major NHS Wales Suppliers; and all lighting across the NHS estate will be LED by 2025.

Ambitious efforts have been outlined to mitigate the effects of climate change by the Welsh Government, including becoming the first nation in the world declaring a climate emergency in 2019, committing to the ambition for the public sector in Wales to be collectively net-zero by 2030 in Net Zero Wales, the proposed Clean Air Plan for Wales, the Welsh Government’s current 5-year adaptation plan, A Climate Conscious Wales, and the delivery of the NHS Wales Decarbonisation Strategic Delivery Plan.


CASE STUDY – Eco-Schools

In Wales, the Eco-Schools programme helps children and young people take action against climate change.

Eco-Schools is a unique programme that places pupil driven environmental change at its heart. Since the inception of Eco-Schools over 25 years ago, the programme has gone from strength to strength and the positive impact that it has on pupils, school environments and whole communities has grown year on year. Giving pupils of all ages a platform to come together to identify environmental improvements, formulate a plan and see the fruition of their concepts is incredibly empowering. Facilitating change-makers who leave school knowing that their voices and ideas can and do make a difference cannot be underestimated.

Schools are increasingly utilising the Eco-Schools programme to deliver aspects of the Curriculum for Wales, in order to develop the Ethical Informed Citizens of Wales and the World that we hope all young people will become. The Eco-Schools process ensures that pupils have the opportunity to investigate, critically evaluate and develop actions to improve their school and local environment. At the same time, they are learning about key issues that affect our local and global environment as well as how to make a positive difference and be a part of the solution.

There are currently over 800 schools across Wales with the prestigious Eco-Schools green flag, and many more working towards the award. Furthermore, Eco-Schools is a global programme which currently runs in 70 countries around the World. Taking part in the programme in Wales makes a school a part of the global family of 56,000 schools worldwide who are taking positive action to create a sustainable future.